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Alex Carnevale
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Mia Nguyen
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Reviews Editor
Ethan Peterson

This Recording

is dedicated to the enjoyment of audio and visual stimuli. Please visit our archives where we have uncovered the true importance of nearly everything. Should you want to reach us, e-mail alex dot carnevale at gmail dot com, but don't tell the spam robots. Consider contacting us if you wish to use This Recording in your classroom or club setting. We have given several talks at local Rotarys that we feel went really well.

Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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Wednesday
Nov082017

In Which We Can Come To No Other Conclusion

Hard to Say is This Recording’s weekly advice column. It will appear every Wednesday until the Earth perishes in a fiery blaze, or until North West turns 40. Get no-nonsense answers to all of your most pressing questions by writing to justhardtosay@gmail.com or by dropping us a note at our tumblr.

Hey,

I recently spent a semester abroad in France. I did not have the best experience for reasons too numerous to detail here. Before I left for France I hooked up with a friend named Alex. We kept in touch throughout the time I was away and with the prospect of my return to campus nearing, things took a different tone in our texts. 

There was a lot of talk about being physical, which I did enjoy — it was great feeling close to Alex and I genuinely care for him. My concern is whether or not this represented a sincere desire on his part to be in a relationship. I'm not sure I know what he expects is going to happen and I feel weird bringing it up on skype or through text. 

How should I approach this?

Karen C.

Dear Karen,

Alex seems genuinely interested, but this is not surprising in itself. Straight men want to be with women, and setting up a expectation of a relationship through texting is a great way to make that happen. 

The ensuing relationship will take whatever form you want it to. If you act cool towards Alex, he will not assume you are going to hop into bed with him, and how he behaves from then on will tell you everything you need to know about what intends for you two. It's quite probable that he did not spend an entire semester pining after you, so find out what he was up to while you were away. I mean, don't hold it against him. A private detective gets pricey quick, so start reading his e-mails while he is in the shower. Most people hide their passwords in plain text in their browser's settings. Fucking idiots.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen. 

Hey,

My girlfriend, who we will call LeAnn after legendary country-western singer LeAnn Rimes (sp?), has put on quite a bit of weight over the past year. It has definitely affected how attracted I am to her even though I have tried everything I can think of not to let that happen. But I need to be honest — when I look at her, she doesn't look like herself.

 I haven't mentioned this at all to LeAnn, but she is definitely aware of the weight she has put on and she talks about it quite a bit. Drawing attention to the change has not made it go away, and only serves to remind me of the stress that caused it and that things are different. 

I have mentioned working out together and stuff but LeAnn's schedule is not really conducive to this and she does exercise, but it is not really helping at this point. Is there any conceivable solution to my issue?

George M.

Dear George,

Over time, it is completely reasonable to change your view of a significant other. You are not going to be able to have the novelty of sexual discovery you possessed when you first met LeAnn. Sure, some people are so easily stimulated that the mere presence of a woman is enough to express lifelong devotion, but in most relationships you have to work to have that stimulation come from within and not the surface. 

Whatever the reason, getting to know LeAnn better has no doubt thrown a wrench in your view of her. Extra weight is not the entire story; you will find that even if she suddenly discovers hot yoga, things will never quite be exactly how they were. 

I would try finding the thing that is holding you back from loving LeAnn as she is. Once you find whatever that thing is and remove the obstacle, you probably won't care very much about the weight, and you will need further therapy. Maybe get out of this relationship now before it's too late.

Tuesday
Nov072017

In Which We Marry A South African Model Of Sorts

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Purple Hills

by JANICE LEVENS

Screen Shot 2017-11-05 at 6.45.58 PMRed Pill Blues
Maroon 5
Adam Levine, Jesse Carmichael, James Valentine, Sam Farrar, Mickey Madden, Matt Flynn, PJ Morton
producers Jason Evigan, John Ryan and Noah Passavoy
November 3rd on 222 and Interscope Records

Now that they are Maroon 7, you might imagine that this band's new album would be less of The Adam Levine Show. But this is not correct, since Maroon 5 is convinced (perhaps justly so) that the source of their success is Levine's supreme voice. On Red Pill Blues, Levine makes a habit of abandoning his trademark falsetto in favor of showing his complete range. His fantastic vocals frequently carried the backing instrumentation in the past, and nothing has really changed in that respect.

Lyrically, Red Pill Blues is more mediocre than bad, but boy is it condescending. On "Denim Jacket" Levine announces

Someone else is taking you home, yeah
Hands on the waist, I used to hold
And I know it's my fault
I'm late to the dance
'Cause you couldn't wait for me and I understand

Things don't get better when Levine duets with the generic Julia Michaels on the Diplo-produced "Help Me Out." The track is meant to divorce itself from the sonic landscape Maroon 5 typically impose on their listening audience, but it just comes across as awkward and dated when Michaels' huskier and darker voice intones, "I need some uncomplicating." It is difficult to parse exactly what she means by this, or if she's referring to Gwyneth or what. The sexist undertones practically pulsate. Perhaps sensing that this collaboration with another white artist was a mistake, Red Pill Blues features a number of extremely brief guest shots with African-American artists, including SZA and A$AP Rocky.

On "Who I Am", Levine weirdly serenades Miami rapper LunchMoney Lewis, who sounds maybe four decades younger than Levine. Levine crowds Lewis out of the track, which concerns itself with how he enjoys being dominated by women until it goes too far. It's hard to understand where this thematic work really fits within Levine's experience, but since the song barely lasts three minutes, it's sort of suggested no one involved with this garbage knows either. As on tracks like the lazy jam "Visions" or "Whiskey", where Levine sounds like he is an entire Earth away from Rocky, the sparser instrumentation pretty much buries any chance backing vocals or instrumentation had to accentuate or otherwise improve the mediocre songwriting.

Also, perhaps I am simply naive, but how can something simply be like "whiskey"? That is not so much a metaphor as a word. (The song seems disturbingly engineered to be used in a liquor advertisement.) It is best to avoid such subtle incriminations in any artistic endeavor. In order to deflect from this pandering type of self-incrimination, Levine retreats to his most developed emotion — his anger at women from his past who contact him now that he is married to South African model Behati Prinsloo.

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On "Closure", he completely abdicates responsibility for his past actions. "How did we end up in this situation?" Levine groans, "Guess it went exactly as you planned: I always give in to your manipulation." While such indictments of exes seem to us, in this time, as excessively condescending, we may be underestimating how deeply women fall in love with Adam Levine. Sex with Adam Levine is like perching on the finest toilet imaginable, so much so that "Closure" drones on for a full twelve minutes with jazz soloing meant to make us forget the miserable lyrics. At some point, you just hope it comes out.

Red Pill Blues does have highlights, moments that make you wish Levine had written the entire album with the eminently consistent Pakistani-American songwriter Ammar Malik, his co-writer on the classic pop song "Payphone". "Wait" nearly reaches those heights, with Levine singing about somewhat darker themes vaguely outside of his own experience ("Wasn't trying to get wasted, I needed more than three or four to say this"). A ballad co-written with Charlie Puth and Julia Michaels, "Lips on You", is similarly catchy, but as nutritionally empty as a soft-drink. Someone has to show Levine what a metaphor is.

Janice Levens is the music editor of This Recording.

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Monday
Nov062017

In Which This Could Be A Normal Family

The following review does not contain major spoilers for the second season of Stranger Things.

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Life on Mute

by ETHAN PETERSON

Stranger Things 2
creators The Duffer Brothers
Netflix

It would be nice of everyone involved with Stranger Things 2 to offer a cut of this limited series without the non-original music. The aural shitposting in this dull sequel to the brilliant original becomes overwhelming somewhere during the eighth rendition of a Duran Duran track that, I'm sorry, was not very good to begin with. The incessant period soundtrack is all the more disappointing and generic-sounding because the original music, composed by Michael Stein and Kyle Dixon of Survive, is so much better than the trash that horrendous decade emitted from its orifices. But whatever. Maybe that is the least of the problems in this meandering return to Hawkins, Indiana.

New this season is Max (Sadie Sink), a fetching redhead at the school where Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Will (Noah Schnapp) spend most of their time moping. Once these boys used to play Dungeons & Dragons and go on adventures. With the onset of early puberty, everything has turned to shit. Fuck Jim Croce, Duran Duran, Ted Nugent, Al Casey, Dan Quayle, Roy Orbison, Pat Benatar and Olivia Newton-John. Fuck The Police.

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Time is also out of joint for Mike's sister Nancy (Natalia Dyer). Nancy is already beginning to look like her mother; her fresh-faced joie de vivre has pretty much entirely vanished. She spends most of her time complaining to her sometimes boyfriend Steve (Joe Keery), who has given up his college ambitions in order to enter his father's business. Hawkins is the saddest town in the world, and unlike the sonorous mystery of the original, here the main question is whether Will, who returned from the upside-down at the end of last season, will be able to sleep through the night.

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Winona Ryder has, for some reason, entered into a passionate relationship with Bob (Sean Astin). Astin is meant to bring us conjoined memories of The Goonies (Fuck The Goonies); instead he and Ryder have all the natural chemistry of a frog inside a shoplifted handbag. Ryder in particular is given almost nothing to work with this season. At least last time out she was believably concerned, driven to find her missing son. Now she is completely aimless, and financially provided for by a man who looks like a lugwrench.

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It is kinda weird that Stranger Things 2 focuses so much on the romantic aspect of the show, because that is exactly the kind of material the Duffer brothers cannot write, like at all, even if you gave them a million pages. First of all, love between middle schoolers ain't exactly the most fertile territory to begin with, and high school ardor is barely better.

When Nancy drunkenly tells Steve how little she cares for him and that their relationship is bullshit, the show just has her pretend her subconscious was doing the talking. That way she is not actually a functional character, but simply a Mary-Sue-esque projection of what men require from their women. At one point I thought if I saw Nancy in one more turtleneck I was going to scream.

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Stranger Things distinguished itself in the way it wrote believable and meaningful storylines for young people, brought to life by a substantial and broad cast of child actors. All that is still present, although the acting of Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) is clunky and poor overall. Stranger Things 2 could have used a whole lot more imagination regarding what young people actually feel and think. The boys of this story are either bracingly mature and completely naive, sometimes within the same scene. Mostly it is hard to tell, because the Duffer brothers are focused on the more pandering, comedic side of what they created.

Well, that was all a mistake. Instead of a generic shadow monster, they had a chance to actually make something that blended horror with a realism of time and place that added to, rather than subtracted from that intrinsic aesthetic. Instead, Stranger Things 2 is a watered-down retread of the first, chock full of the fan service that should have only come after they ran through their original ideas. Or did they have any in the first place?

Ethan Peterson is the reviews editor of This Recording.

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